Curious Nature: How to successfully camp with your kids
Here in the Colorado High Country, we have beautiful terrain and outdoor activities providing unique and exciting experiences. We like to share those experiences with everyone, including our kids.
Bringing kids into nature is essential to their future development as young outdoorsmen and women. Getting outside with your children is one of the most important things that you can do for your child’s early life experiences, but sometimes it can be hard to know just how to go about doing so. Here are a few tips that will help you get an idea of how to successfully camp with your kids and spark their love for the outdoors and environmental stewardship.
Do a test run
First and foremost, practice in the backyard to ensure comfort and security for the kids and to help you realize what you may have forgotten to “pack.” Your mock camping trip should be an attempt to stay in the tent and play in the yard to get comfortable with being out of the house. Added comfort comes in light. Bring lanterns, headlamps, and glow sticks for safety and fun. After the practice-round, you are ready to start thinking about your family adventure.
Location, location, location
When planting the seed that will become a fun camping adventure you should think about location. Start by researching the area where you are headed so that you know what activities are around and the conditions you will face.
If you are a tech-savvy lover of the outdoors, apps such as All Trails and Mountain Project are great resources for scoping a kid-friendly campsite. Use local on-the-ground resources as well, such as the US Forest Service, which will have more intimate knowledge of an area and its available activities. Once you know where you’re going and what activities are around, you are ready to start packing.
Packing it in
Packing correctly can make or break a successful camping trip with kids. Do not forget to consider all the possible weather conditions. Do you need to bring a rain fly? Extra bedding? Hand warmers?
Family camping is different than your backpacking weekend in the backcountry, you will need to bring extra items to provide comfort and safety. The kids may be interested in packing as well, so let them help as much as possible. Give them items to pack and have separate bins so they can help you organize bedding, kitchen, and daytime activities so that you stay nice and organized.
Let the kids have a say in what food you will be cooking around the fire or camp stove so they will be sure to eat it. Kids sometimes think of fire-cooked food as gross so bringing a backup option is never a bad idea; and of course, don’t forget the s’mores! Cooking is also a good opportunity for a lesson in fire safety.
Make it fun
Now that you have packed the essentials, think about entertainment. Kids don’t always want to sit around the fire and talk or tell stories, so allow for some structured activities and unstructured outdoor play.
Take them on adventures around the camp to spark their curiosity and love of nature. It’s never a bad idea to bring some field guides with you to identify birds, plants or animals you may encounter on the trail.
Camping can be scary for kids because of the enormous amount of unknown. Educate them about outdoor safety and what to do if you have a run-in with any large animals.
You now have some tips for a memorable and successful family camping experience, but I encourage you to do more research on camping with kids to put your own unique twist on learning to love the outdoors.
Bret Pilkington is a naturalist with Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon and enjoys getting out into the backcountry and climbing around the state.